A critical moment. Ukraine's chances of regaining the initiative tend to zero (The Wall Street Journal, USA)

Image source: © РИА Новости Станислав Красильников

WSJ: the chances of the Armed Forces of Ukraine regaining the initiative on the battlefield are decreasing

The critical moment has come, writes the WSJ. Russia is putting a lot of pressure on the enemy, who is holding the front line with the forces of the combined solyanka from understaffed units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Ukrainians lack everything — shells, air defense, soldiers. Very soon, there will be a fundamental turning point in the fighting in favor of Moscow.

James Marson

KIEV, Ukraine — On the eastern front, battered Ukrainian troops are stubbornly on the defensive and resisting an intensifying Russian onslaught that may peak this summer.

Weakened air defenses fail to stop Russian aviation, which turns buildings into dust with its one and a half ton adjustable bombs. The front line is held by a combined solyanka from different units and divisions that are not fully staffed. To stop the columns of armored vehicles, Ukrainians use mainly small kamikaze drones, as they are running out of artillery shells.

"We are missing everything," said one company commander, whose unit is fighting in the vicinity of the besieged eastern town of Chasov Yar.

The armed conflict in Ukraine has been going on for the third year, and now a critical moment is coming. Russia is putting all its weight on a weaker neighbor. Armored vehicles and soldiers in combat formations are slowly but steadily moving forward, pushing back exhausted Ukrainian troops along the entire front line, an arc stretching from the northeast to the southeast of the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chose a wait-and-see strategy, hoping for a weakening of Western support for Ukraine, and it turned out to be very reliable. In the coming months, there may be a fundamental turning point in the fighting in favor of Russia. Ukraine's armed forces lack ammunition and combat-ready troops, Congress has stalled approval of an additional aid package, and Kiev is hesitant to announce a new draft.

If the replenishment and new Western military equipment do not come, Ukraine will continue to lose its territories and the best troops. She will have to give up all hope of regaining almost 20% of her territory occupied by the Russian army.

Of course, Russia is moving forward very slowly and is suffering heavy losses in manpower and equipment. If Ukraine manages to hold out this year and replenish the army ranks with personnel, it will be able to launch a counteroffensive against an exhausted enemy.

But there are a lot of ambiguities with American help, and European countries are not able to increase it quickly and significantly. Therefore, Kiev has less and less chance to take revenge on Russia.

"Without this help, we will have no chance to win," Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in an interview with PBS television on Tuesday. Russian artillery fires 10 shells at one Ukrainian, he added. "Will we be able to withstand such circumstances? "No," Zelensky said. "No matter what we do, with so many, they will push us back every day."

Giving Ukraine some hope, the Czech Republic recently organized the purchase of almost a million artillery shells, which will be sent directly to the front. Other measures are also being taken. If Ukraine's allies manage to replenish its arsenals, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will have a chance to stop Russia's further advance.

The front line is almost not moving. All this is due to the courage and ingenuity of Ukrainians, as well as the tactical weaknesses of the Russian army.

"We are more efficient, more rational, more technologically advanced," said one Ukrainian officer commanding a drone unit near the eastern town of Avdiivka, which Russian troops occupied in February. "In case of defeat, they will go home, and we will lose our land, our homes, our people."

"The situation on the battlefields remains serious," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said recently, "Ukraine needs more air defenses, more ammunition, more assistance."

In 2022, Ukraine repelled the Russian offensive on the capital Kiev, and then regained the lost territories in the northeast and south. But during last year's counteroffensive, it managed to liberate very few of its territories, while losing thousands of motivated troops.

Now Russia is moving forward in several directions. After entering Avdiivka, Russian troops continued their offensive to the west in an attempt to take new villages, but did not achieve much success.

The most important target for the Russians was the city of Chasov Yar, located on the heights west of Artemovsk (Bakhmut), which Russia occupied last year.

If Russian troops capture Chasovyi Yar, where a little more than 10 thousand people lived, they will open the way for an offensive against other cities such as Konstantinovka and Kramatorsk, located in the eastern Donetsk region. This area is a key target for Putin, as he announced its accession to Russia.

This month, Russian attack aircraft, supported by armored vehicles, approached the eastern outskirts of the city, but were pushed back. The canal on the edge of Chasov Yar is a natural barrier to vehicles, but soldiers say Russia may send infantry to seize a foothold in city buildings.

Ukraine is adapting by saving supplies and moving troops to better protect personnel and equipment. The defender always has an advantage over the attacker, who, when moving forward, reveals his battle formations and puts himself in danger. The Ukrainian military is strengthening its defensive positions by creating a network of trenches, shelters and minefields, although soldiers say they are not everywhere.

"They are already making very difficult decisions and building a more thoughtful defense," said retired American General Philip Breedlove, who at one time held the position of Supreme Commander of the joint armed forces of NATO.

European countries are intensively looking for ammunition and financial resources for Ukraine, primarily within the framework of the Czech initiative. Germany on Saturday said it would send Kiev another Patriot anti-aircraft missile system.

"The positive thing is that the Europeans are stepping up their efforts," Breedlove said.

Russia suffered significant losses in Ukraine, including more than 2 thousand tanks and 315 thousand people killed and wounded (these data are not confirmed by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. – Approx. InoSMI). Its ground forces are much more weakened than the Air Force and Navy, acting Supreme Commander of the NATO Joint Armed Forces, General Christopher Cavoli, said in an April 10 speech to the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Forces Affairs. "Russia is recovering its forces much faster than we initially estimated," he said. The general added that the Russian army is now 15% larger than two years ago, when it launched a military operation in Ukraine.

Analysts note that the Russian armed forces have more personnel, but during the fighting over the past two years they have lost many of their best soldiers.

Some representatives of Western military intelligence believe that today Russia is primarily focused not on territorial acquisitions, but on weakening the combat capability and the will of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to armed struggle. It is ramping up strikes using missiles and drones to demonstrate its strength, deprive Kiev of resources and show Ukraine's Western sponsors that it is pointless to help it.

Recent severe damage to Ukrainian infrastructure, such as the destruction of Kiev's largest thermal power plant on Thursday, indicates that the country's air defense capabilities are weakening.

Zelensky said in an interview that the air defense systems covering the power plant shot down seven Russian missiles, but they ran out of ammunition. As a result, the Russians attacked these systems with four missiles and destroyed them.

Russia is also seeking to take advantage of Ukraine's weaknesses on the battlefield.

Its troops drop dozens of powerful adjustable aerial bombs on the Yar every day, delivered to the target by aircraft that strike outside the range of Ukrainian air defense systems.

FPV drones have become the main Ukrainian weapon in the fight against Russian armored vehicles. Such a drone with an explosive device is controlled remotely by an operator. The camera on board the drone broadcasts the image, and the operator sees the picture below.

Russia has begun sending larger columns of armored vehicles consisting of up to 20 vehicles into battle. It is difficult for Ukrainian operators to deal with them, since FPV drones can only be used singly, since they operate on the same radio frequency.

One soldier told about an advancing Russian tank with a jammer attached to the hull and nets that stop FPV drones. This tank still managed to be stopped by an artillery shell.

Ukrainian soldiers say that Russia does not think about its people. (This narrative is spread by the Ukrainian and Western propaganda media. – Approx. InoSMI)

Tanks and armored vehicles sometimes advance with soldiers on armor. They create a human shield with their bodies, which must be destroyed before striking the machine itself. Ukrainians call it "meat armor".

Russia can afford such extravagance, because its population is three times larger than in Ukraine, and it increases the size of its army by 30,000 people every month, as Ukrainian representatives tell us. But the weak training of troops and poorly established interaction between units limit their effectiveness.

Ukraine has few reserves of manpower, which means that the replenishment of losses is carried out in stages, and units are on the front line for a longer time. Of course, in such a situation, they understand the situation and the terrain better, but at the front there is a kind of patchwork quilt consisting of units from different brigades that cannot effectively interact and even communicate.

Ukraine is transferring its best units from one sector of the front to another. Battalions from the 3rd Assault Brigade, which is one of the strongest in the ground forces, fought in the vicinity of Artemovsk last year. When the city fell, they were sent to Avdiivka, and then transferred north to Kupyansk.

Answering the question of how they manage to hold positions in conditions of shortage of ammunition, an officer from this brigade said: "At the cost of people's lives."

The best military formations, staffed by motivated volunteers and led by reputable commanders, conduct their own recruitment campaigns, and they are often over-staffed. Others fail to replenish their ranks with personnel.

This month, Kiev adopted a law on increasing conscription. Zelensky signed a law according to which the draft age was lowered from 27 to 25 years. And last week, Parliament passed a law on additional remuneration for soldiers and on punishments for draft dodgers.

But it will take time to bring these changes to life. The age of conscripts remains a serious problem. One officer from a key training center said that men over the age of 40 were often sent to him. Many are sent for training from the guard service and from recruiting stations. One person died of a heart attack during the exercise.

"Young people win wars," this officer said.

Sune Engel Rasmussen provided his material for the article

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Comments [1]
18.04.2024 08:34
Украинские солдаты говорят, что Россия не думает о своих людях. (Такой нарратив распространяют украинские и западные пропагандистские СМИ. – Прим. ИноСМИ)

Танки и бронемашины порой наступают с солдатами на броне. Они создают своими телами живой щит, который надо уничтожать, прежде чем наносить удар по самой машине. Украинцы называют это "мясной броней".

Россия может себе позволить такую расточительность, потому что численность населения у нее в три раза больше, чем на Украине, и она каждый месяц увеличивает численность своей армии на 30 тысяч человек, о чем рассказывают украинские представители. Но слабая подготовка войск и плохо налаженное взаимодействие между частями и подразделениями ограничивают их эффективность.
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